Haaland convinces even arch-rival father and ‘is ready for match against Real’
After tonight it will be known who will play the Champions League final against Internazionale in Istanbul on June 10. Unlike yesterday’s Milan derby, things can still go either way after the 1-1 draw between Real Madrid and Manchester City in Madrid last week.
The hopes of many City fans in the return of the semifinals are pinned on their Norwegian super striker Erling Haaland. But he, of all people, barely featured in last week’s game, partly because of the strongly defending German Antonio Rüdiger.
So it was another Haaland who made headlines after that game. Alfie Haaland, Erling’s father, was removed from the VIP box in Madrid by security guards. The cause was allegedly nuts being thrown at Real Madrid fans from the Haaland box. Senior himself denies this on Twitter, by the way.
Akkefies with Roy Keane
Haaland senior’s involvement with Manchester City obviously has everything to do with his there son being a striker. But it is more than that. Early this century, Alfie himself wore the pale blue shirt of ‘The Citizens’ for three seasons. Until his career was brutally ended by Roy Keane, the captain of rival Manchester United.
The cause was an altercation in the 1997/1998 season in which Alfie Haaland – then still a Leeds United player – badly injured Roy Keane in a duel, and also berated him for acting up. The always nail-biting Irishman Keane had not forgotten this when both men came out against each other in the Manchester derby in 2001.
Keane went in with a straight leg on Alfie’s knee and received the red card without batting an eye. The Irishman was suspended for three games and fined £5,000 by the FA. A pittance compared to the damage done to the Norwegian. He would never play another full match at the age of 29.
At first, Haaland was still defending Keane, claiming he had been suffering from the left knee in question for some time. However, this changed when Keane stated in his biography – released in 2002 – that he had deliberately injured the Norwegian to take revenge.
Since then, Haaland has repeatedly proclaimed in media reports that Keane was responsible for the end of his soccer career. Keane also received another five-match suspension and a £150,000 fine from the FA after the biography was released.
Keane predicts correctly
Keane quit in 2006 and has now been a soccer analyst at Sky Sports for many years. Since the transfer of son Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund to England, many people were curious whether it would lead to uncomfortable situations if the Irishman had to talk about the son of one of his arch-rivals. Nothing could be further from the truth.
After just one round of play in the Premier League, when the then just 22-year-old Haaland junior scored twice against West Ham United, Keane knew for sure: “He’s going to score 30, 40 goals this season.” A prediction that came true, too. The record then stood at 34 goals in one Premier League season, but with three games to go, Haaland already stands at 36 goals.
Also in the Champions League, Erling Haaland is on staggering figures. Despite the scoreless game against Real, the Norwegian stands at 35 goals after 28 games in the billion-dollar ball, an average of 1.25 goals per game.
Bear in mind that that includes six games at Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg (eight goals), not a high-flyer in European soccer after all. In terms of averages at the highest European level, Haaland is currently well above such giants of the present and distant past as Gerd Müller, Ferenc Puskás, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.
Congratulations from Guardiola
City coach Pep Guardiola was therefore clear toward Haaland’s direct keeper after the first semifinal against Real Madrid when the Norwegian remained without a goal: “I want to congratulate Rüdiger on that.” Still, the Spanish coach, who in his seventh season at City finally wants to win the Champions League, has plenty of confidence in the Norwegian.
“I expect the return to be a little easier for Erling. Especially if the team around him starts to function a little bit better. That’s what we’re striving for. I watched the game with Real back and I saw that Erling worked very hard. I am sure he is ready for the match,” Guardiola said.